How long have you worked at the Uni? What does your role involve?
I have worked here since 1993. 25 years – that’s scary! I left briefly in 2001, and went to a silicon photonics company just in time for the ‘bust’ of the dot com ‘boom and bust’. My first meeting on my first day working there was to discuss the first round of redundancies! And I was also 6 months pregnant with my third child at the time. It was an interesting experience, but in the end we were all made redundant, and so I came back to the uni after a couple of years. So I’ve basically been here for 25 years, despite an ill-fated attempt at escape.
I am Director of Teaching in the Department of Physics. I am responsible for looking after teaching and learning in the Department, which includes looking after the students and the staff (and sometimes keeping them in order!).
What would you most like to achieve while at the University?
I suppose I would like to help engender an environment where the students can really make the most of themselves, where they can learn, develop and grow, in all sorts of ways – academically and non-academically. I think there’s a lot to be said for the gardening metaphor for education – I want our department to be a really good flower bed for them to bloom in!
Name one thing that makes you feel proud to work at the University of Bath?
I think it is my colleagues – the team we have got in Physics. It’s that we genuinely do care about the students and it (usually!) feels like we’re all on the same team.
What piece of advice would you like to give to a student?
It’s a very short time being at university, and it’s really important to make the most of it in all sorts of ways.
Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t understand something, in fact I think it is imperative that you do! Sometimes you’ll need real grit and determination – it takes effort to fully understand some of the harder concepts in our courses. Students sometimes don’t want to admit that they don’t understand something, because they think that everyone else does – I suspect there’s a fair bit of faking going on, though! I think honesty is critical for learning, in all sorts of ways.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a librarian. I was really bookish - I learnt to read very early and I was always reading. I had a dolls pram, which I didn’t use to put dolls in - instead I would fill it with books and wheel it around making people borrow books from my ‘library’, which I would then stamp, probably very officiously!
What was your first job?
My first job was playing the piano in what I thought at the time (the 1980s) was a very fancy bistro restaurant. Although they rapidly roped me in to rather more than that. Some evenings I’d also be hanging up the customers’ fur coats (it was the 1980s, after all), making starters in the kitchen, waiting on tables, and working behind the bar. Then any time it got a bit quieter the restaurant owner would say “Where’s me atmosphere?”, and I’d have to jump back to the piano. The customers looked a bit startled at times!
I’ve done a lot of other holiday jobs over the years. As well as the usual pub and restaurant jobs, I drove an ice cream van in San Diego, worked in a video dating agency (called Great Expectations, and every bit as hideous as it sounds!), and did cold call telesales, trying (and weirdly, often succeeding) to sell a year’s worth of vitamins to random people.
If you could start your own dream business, what would it be?
I’m not sure I’m that interested in a business as such. I suppose if I was going to do a dream thing it would be something around mediation or restorative justice. I have done quite a lot of mediation, both community based and at the uni - I’m not doing it at the moment, but it’s something I’d like to get back into.
Where is your favourite holiday destination and why?
It’s Mexico. We went to Mexico a couple of years ago and it was just stunning. The history, the culture, the scenery, the people, the food - it’s an incredible place.
My husband and I also went there when we were travelling in 1986 - we had no money then, and it was really pretty dodgy. So it was great to revisit it thirty years later in a very different way. We took the kids with us - it was really special being able to share it with them and have a more comfortable, less dangerous time than we did before!
What’s your favourite album and why?
I think I would probably go for Flesh and Blood by Roxy Music. Not because I think it’s the greatest album ever, but because it’s just so evocative of my teenage years. Some of the riffs still give me butterflies in my stomach!
When are you happiest?
Either on holiday with my family, or at times playing music. I play violin in an orchestra, and it can be really magical when things really come together in a concert, and everyone’s putting their heart and soul into it.
Somewhat less magically, we have a Department of Physics string quartet! We haven’t played in a long time, and we’re very bad - so bad that I play first violin. We would hack our way through various quartets and drink red wine, which was a great combination - whenever we played badly we would just drink more wine and then we sounded much better!
Which one superpower would you like to possess?
Controlling time. It would be great to have something like a TV remote control to speed up or slow down time. To slow down family holidays and speed up some meetings!
Tell us your favourite joke
I’m terrible at jokes! This is the only joke I can remember: How many ears does Captain Kirk have? Three – the right ear, the left ear and the final front ear.